The same workout routine in your 30s impacts your body differently after 50. Even if you're able to perform most of the same moves, it takes your body longer to recover. You may also find yourself feeling fatigued much earlier and for a longer time afterward.
While it's easy to brush it all off on aging, seven other factors may be at work. Addressing them can help you get back your mojo:
1. Your meds make you tired. Numerous medications list fatigue as a side effect, including antihistamines for allergies, sleeping pills, diuretics, blood pressure meds and steroids.
"But the worst offenders are antibiotics like Cipro," says Dr. Carolyn Dean, author of 30 books including The Magnesium Miracle.
Cipro binds to minerals like magnesium, making it unavailable to the body, explains Dean. Those already deficient in magnesium who take take Cipro for a cold or flu may suffer magnesium deficiency symptoms including fatigue and muscle aches and cramps, she says. Ask your doctor for alternative medications if fatigue affects your daily activities.
(MORE: 5 Unexpected Side Effects of Common Medications)
2. You're anemic. Chronic diseases, GI bleeding disorders, malabsorption issues and an iron-deficient diet can all contribute to anemia and fatigue as a symptom.
"Hemoglobin carries oxygen from the lungs to all parts of the body," says Dean. "If your hemoglobin is low, you can't carry as much oxygen and you'll find yourself gasping for breath."
Iron is found highest in animal protein, making it difficult for vegetarians to get enough. The recommended dietary allowance for iron is 8 mg for men and women over 51; women ages 19 to 50 need 18 mg. Lean meat and seafood contain high levels of iron as well as nuts, beans and fortified grain products.
3. You're dehydrated. As little as a 1 to 2 percent change in hydration levels affects your energy, especially if you're slightly dehydrated to start, says Cedric X. Bryant, chief science officer with the American Council on Exercise (ACE). "Hydration at the cellular level is needed to fuel your activities. Dehydration could impair these chemical reactions," he notes.
The color of your urine is the simplest way to determine if you need more water. Pale- to lemon-colored urine indicates ample hydration, but dark urine means it's time to drink up, says Bryant.
4. You're not fully recovered from your last workout. As we age, we don't recover as quickly as in our younger years. "You have to listen to your body," says Bryant. "If you need more recovery time, take an extra day off. Recovery needs varies among individuals."
Adequate, restful sleep plays a major role in recovery, which can be elusive after 50. Turn off all electronics an hour for more restful sleep, suggests Bryant.
A general rule of thumb for recovery: Take an extra day off if you're feeling excessively tired or fatigued. "Or, engage in a more restful exercise such as Pilates or yoga," says Bryant. "You really need only two to three resistance training sessions a week."
5. You have sleep apnea. Waking up in the morning and feeling as if you haven't slept a wink could be a sign of sleep apnea, where you stop breathing during the night with shortness of breath. "Low levels of estrogen [such as those that occur with menopause] are the main causes of many cases of sleep apnea," says Dr. Michael Coppola, past president of the American Sleep Apnea Association.
Sleep apnea not only cuts restful sleep, making you drowsy during the day, it also increases the risk of high blood pressure. See a doctor if you suspect sleep apnea may be at the root of your fatigue.
6. You're not breathing properly. Shallow breathing and taking in short, shallow breaths can cause "overbreathing," where you breathe in carbon dioxide too quickly, before your body has a chance to make more.
This can lead to hyperventilating, where it feels as if you're not getting enough oxygen. You can become faint and weak.
"Breathing high in the lungs and not involving the diaphragm can cause a person to become short of breath," says Dean. "You can even get headaches, which can limit your workouts."
Practice breathing in fully, allowing your diaphragm to expand, for a count of five, hold for two and then exhale for six to seven seconds. Yoga can also help establish healthy breathing habits.
7. Your eating habits work against you. A diet high in refined carbs (e.g. white flour and sugar) can wreck havoc with your blood sugar, says Amy Goodson, a dietitian for Texas Health Ben Hogan Sports Medicine. "Constant blood sugar spikes followed by sharp drops such as those that occur from eating refined carbs can cause fatigue," she notes.
To keep blood sugar and energy levels steady, eat small meals throughout the day, making each contains a good quality, lean protein and a whole grain. Examples include a salad with chicken, fruit with yogurt or cottage cheese, or fish and brown rice.
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